It's only since I became chronically ill that I really began to love books. Growing up, I didn't read for pleasure, which always worried my poor mom. This extrovert wanted to socialize! And to do lots of extracurriculars instead. She would always joke that once I got to chapter books, I didn't have time to read. We had books everywhere in our house. But, I just didn't love reading like I do now. After hours of studying every day for school, I wanted to do something else.
Seven years after becoming ill, our friend who was also a children's librarian, started bringing me boxes of cassettes (yes, cassettes) in 2005 when I was bed bound after my gallbladder surgery. That was the beginning of my love of books, and especially audiobooks since 1. focusing to read is super difficult, and 2. neck pain makes it difficult to get comfortable to read.
At the beginning of 2022, I was feeling AWFUL. I felt like I did years ago when every movement was a monumental effort. I was also in pain and having extreme orthostatic intolerance. It was difficult for me to distract myself from my suffering.
I started binging on audiobooks, listening to them every moment that I could--and settling in every night to listen for two to three hours because I didn't feel well enough to do anything else like texting, talking on the phone, using the computer, watching TV. I could recline while wearing my hard collar and just escape into a story.
I'm not big on setting goals that end up being easily disrupted by the cycles of chronic illness. But, I decided to set a goal to listen to 50 books in 2022, which was a HUGE number compared to what I typically listen to. This goal ended up providing me with a constant reminder to TURN ON AN AUDIOBOOK every time I wanted to just sit and wallow or felt too tired to do anything.
Being able to allow myself to REST and LISTEN to books for what often turned into several hours a day was a really big shift for me. Resting is hard. Resting can be boring. Resting makes me feel guilty. Instead of my usual pattern of trying to PUSH through my symptoms and making myself worse, I honored my body. Even 24 years in, this is hard to do. Listening to 50 books was more that just about the books. It was about taking care of me, resting more peacefully, and doing what I needed to do to survive the mental anguish.
I've loved books for a long time now. It's one of my favorite things to talk about. But 2022 gave me even more time to love them. To try lots of different genres and authors. To be reminded of the incredible power of stories to help us to grow, learn, empathize, escape, laugh, cry and, literally, survive.
Many of you have asked me for my favorite books and asked for recommendations, so I plan to spend the next couple of blog posts sharing what I read in 2022. Books got me through 2022. I can't wait to hear what you've been reading too!